Wisdom: What is It, and How can It be Found?
Whatever wisdom is, it is ephemeral, relative, subjective and relational which makes it very difficult to define or even characterize. This is one attempt.
As knowledge is superior to data or information, wisdom has been refined by qualities superior to mere data, like kindness or compassion. Therefore wisdom has an ethical quality. The most brilliant scientists on Earth can create weapons capable of destroying civilization and perhaps our species. Wiser scientists chose not to create such weapons, because they can see the long term consequences of such acts. Therefore wisdom has a global, long-term quality, because it sees consequences for the whole as well as the part, and for the long-term as well as the short.
Wisdom is inextricably bound up in human affairs. Therefore it requires both detailed and deep understanding of human behavior, and of the behavior of groups that people form. Therefore wisdom is also relative. What appears wise to Democrats in America, for example, often does not look wise to Republicans. Some of those differences are philosophical, or reflect profound differences in core values, so they are not easily resolved. And what is wise for the country as a whole often gets lost in battles over what seems wise for Democrats or Republicans.
Another example would be that what seems wise to Jews does not always seem wise to Muslims. Here the devout derive their concepts of wisdom from different scriptures. Yet within both of these groups and every other religion I have studied, there are enlightened who see the unity behind their similar words. There are also brothers who fight each other over who will rule the earth. Those brothers violate the Golden Rule that lives within everyone’s scriptures. Yet they think they are exemplars of the prophets of ancient times. Thus does hubris corrupt true wisdom.
Hubris is an ancient Greek term that means, roughly “overweening pride.” Thus one might infer that humility is a necessary constituent of wisdom. And so did many ancient sages claim .
This six-page essay with 12 supporting endnotes was created for an U of Minnesota graduate class called "Searching for Wisdom." That was one of the most interesting classes I ever created, and it was taught in the Honors Program at the University of St. Thomas also.
Andregg, Michael M..
Wisdom: What is It, and How can It be Found?.
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